[RPG] What to do when a great idea comes too soon


As a GM, often a fantastic ending to a campaign comes to me before I start it. In the Star Wars universe, I picture the heroes stealing a Star Destroyer from the Empire or, in D&D, I picture the heroes resurrecting an elder dragon.

Many times, campaigns are formed because of these inspirations… And my heroes never get to experience it because the campaign either takes on a life of its own or fizzles out. Or worst of all… I come up with something different.

How can I get low-level, beginning heroes to these endings? I feel that bringing such epic scenes early breaks realism, and I have no desire to begin a high level campaign. I'm trapped between that and the reality that planning out every plot detail from the beginning to the end is a waste of effort due to the effects of a campaign mentioned above.

Has anyone encountered this problem in the past and how has it been addressed?

Best Answer

Option One: Start Closer To The End

It's not actually cheating to start at a higher level, and that's a weird expectation that games don't bear out. The inclination to "make those bastards work for it" is not a helpful GM attribute. I really enjoyed playing Feng Shui for the first time when it came out because by specifically allowing the players to be badass from the beginning and encouraging the GM to not try to "put them in their place" or "meter their advancement" but to instead give them opportunities to be badass, it broke me of this exact negative habit. You know this option exists because you mentioned it - not wanting to do it is a personality disorder, get over it.

Option Two: Don't, Or At Least Be Opportunistic

Players really don't want to dance to your tune for a long campaign, as you've noticed. However, the turns they take can bring them close to your end setpiece - or at least, one of them. Keep a list of your "uber kewl ideas" and seed multiple of them. Don't think of it as "One campaign, one big payoff." If you have an idea for a dragon resurrection or an epic lich fight or or... Then just keep all of those ready, and whichever one the PCs seem to be approaching as they chart their own path, pull it out.

Option Three: Do An Immense Amount Of Work And Have Iron Determination

Having said that, I did run a 5 year long 2e campaign with a very specific end setpiece in mind, and we hit it. But it required not getting distracted by a new shiny thing, it required heavy player investment and a very large amount of prep and plotting by me every single week. And I let the players range wildly out on their own paths, and then hooked them in very carefully so that they were all super motivated to get to the same end setpiece. It sounds like this is what you're trying and not able to do, so I'd swap to options 1 or 2 (as I do nowadays since I'm not a yute with infinite time on my hands anymore).